This being her second visit to the grocery store, with its blinding fluorescent light and constant AC, she came prepared. The wool sweater, a gift from her best friend back in Nairobi, smells of incense and coal, the scent of safe secrets, closeness and familiarity. Its fabric caresses her chin as she exhales a memory not far away in time, but distant in space. She looks around to see if others too, had their breaths and dreams crystalized for a brief moment and ruthlessly stolen again and again as they aimlessly rummaged for deals on frozen dinners.
She used to anticipate talking and touching vegetables; a cabbage in the palm of her hand, its aroma sharing stories of sun and soil. “Best One!” The boy-seller cajoled, regardless of her selection. She kissed teeth, he smiled. The first time she brought a cantaloupe to her nose in Toronto, the entire display cascaded onto the floor, causing everyone to stare, which made her feel small.
Today, she was on a mission and briskly walked to the produce section. She picked up a plastic container of spinach, leaflets cut from the roots and incarcerated in a cold transparent cell. She abandoned the idea of being able to feel, to brush her hands across living surfaces. She had to trust what the new gods declared; that all these packages are uniform and that uniformity is good. Trust that since it says “Triple-filtered wash”, that the machines prepped it like how gran-gran did back home. Word is Bond.
In the express cash, she pulled out a five dollar bill. “$4.99, plus tax ma’am.” Said the cashier.
She didn’t have enough.
How do aliens buy local?
What currency do they use
Food stamps, time shells
How do aliens eat local?
What appliances do they need
Sun Rays, X rays
How do aliens think global?
What conscience should we use
Third Eye, World Lie
by: Chris Vaughn
A poem inspired by the Alien Nation project
When the motor cuts off and the silence of the seas speaks urgent nothings to the cold darkness, I wish to kill my brother. I would muster up what little strength still lurks in my gaunt frame and with one desperate heave I’d topple his snoring ass overboard. The sudden force would rock the overcrowded pirogue, waking the others from their uncomfortable slumber. Startled, they would shine the one flashlight that still works and someone would realize that a body has disappeared. I bet they would look at me, with cutting stares that sting of indifference and mistrust and understanding. They would close their eyelids again, resting their head next to their rusty knife, or stone or whatever impromptu weapon they have befriended on the trip.
He sleeps, and I don’t know how. His buttocks cushioned by the few CFA bills stuffed in his pockets, the continual waves of hunger pains banging at the side of the bottom don’t seem to bother him as much as they do me. To think, he is not even a fisherman like the rest of us, and we trust him to bring us under the cover of night from Saint Louis to Casablanca. I think that is where we are going. I hear the names of far off cities in prayers and mumbled dreams. Here we are, my fisherman intuition drained and depleted like the life from the sea below, knowing full well that the weight of our needs cannot compete against the merciless western waves. .
The motor coughs and rumbles again, its humming second only to that of the floating Russian fish factory towering next to us.